By Beth Lambert
How One Company Went Kosher
Originally published in Natural Products Insider on November 27, 2014.
One of the most fulfilling aspects of running Herbalist & Alchemist is the passion that our customers have for our products; they want all of their patients and customers to benefit from David Winston’s knowledgeable formulations. That enthusiasm sometimes leads us to unplanned opportunities, including certification by OK Kosher, a leading Kosher certifying agency.
TV personality and clinical herbalist Sara Chana Silverstein, a long-time customer of Herbalist & Alchemist, was the catalyst for our kosher certification. Sara Chana, who has studied herbal medicine under David Winston, has an herbal practice primarily treating woman and children. She prefers to use our herbal products in her practice, but needed for them to be certified kosher to make them suitable for her community’s use. She made the introduction to OK Kosher, which started the process.
Working with OK Kosher is a wonderful experience. They’re very tech savvy and made the whole process go smoothly; regular inspections provide feedback on how we’re doing meeting kosher requirements. (Note: The OK kosher sign without any other letter designation next to the symbol means that it does not have meat or milk products so these products are also suitable for vegetarians and vegans. And people with dairy allergies can be assured that the OK Kosher pareve products do not contain any traces of dairy in the actual product.)
After the one-year inspection by OK Kosher, Herbalist & Alchemist has just been recertified kosher for all but a few of our herbal products. Our recently redesigned labels now display the OK Kosher symbol for all certified kosher products.
If you are interested in pursuing kosher certification, the first step is finding the certifying body that is the best fit for you. We looked at a number of certifying agencies over the years and the way the people at OK Kosher do the process made the most sense for us due to our extensive product line. Because they are knowledgeable about working online, their ability to review a number of products in a cost effective way made it affordable.
Step two is to fill out all the documentation they needed, which is extensive. Being able to do it electronically and feed them information that way made it easier for us. A lot of it involved compiling info from our suppliers on confirmation that ingredients were Kosher, and making sure they had current documentation, which is the most extensive part of process. The certifiers are particularly interested in ingredients that have been processed in any way—AKA, that is moved away from nature. Herbs themselves are a separate class of ingredients because they have not been processed. Kosher certification is about how ingredients are handled once they come in from nature, making sure they are handled in accordance with kosher law. In many ways kosher certification is similar to GMPs because it is a documentation system.
Once the documentation is submitted they will do an on-site inspection, giving feedback on any changes needed for certification. Once all the information is evaluated, you receive your letter of certification.
It’s been an interesting and relatively painless process, and of course making our products available to the kosher community is rewarding. It was gratifying to get this note from the certifying Rabbi: “I am pleased to report that your kosher program seems to be in fine working order,” noted Rabbi Yitzchak Hanoka, the Tri-State Rabbinic Coordinator of OK Kosher Certification. “We are quite pleased with the segregation system you have in place for the handful of non-kosher products you produce, in terms of the holding jars and appropriate labels.”